And now for something completely different.

Eight eyes are better than four. . .

Eight eyes are better than four. . .

Today’s cheesecakes are cooling on the counter, and I still need to make strawberry sauce. But that’s not all the news from my corner of the world. This month we made the jump from three to five kids in glasses. Nathan’s glasses arrived last week; Isaac just got his today. At 12 and 10, they’re actually late bloomers for our family when it comes to being near sighted. The older three needed glasses around age 7, like I did. . .Larry was a little older though. That said, Isaac’s vision changed quickly: he could see 20/20 at his exam in August but he was complaining by Christmas. I made him another appointment this spring when the older kids were due for exams and sure enough, he needed glasses.

I am thankful we have vision insurance, even when their policies are aggravating and inefficient. That’s all I’m going to say about that, though!

Just keep baking. . .

Happily I enjoy baking! I baked two cheesecakes again today, so I am halfway there. The fun thing about baking cheesecake is that it is quite impressive in spite of being easy to make. Because I like to share, here are my two secrets for cheesecake:

  1. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before you start.
  2. Beat the heck out of them. Really. Once everything is blended, I set a fifteen minute timer and let the mixer do its job.

 

Double batch of cheesecake.

Today I also made the chocolate sauce.

 

Ganache: fancy name, easy sauce!

  I hope you don’t mind the play by play, but I’m taking notes for my future reference. :)

Graduation count down

The kids know how many days of school are left. . .I know I have six days, including today, until Caleb’s graduation party! Paper products have been purchased (yikes!), as have groceries except produce. The meat for the pasta dishes has been cooked and is waiting in the freezer.

Cheesecake is on the menu, so today I baked the first two and made the caramel sauce. 

  
Yum!

All I want for Mother’s Day

I don’t want to eat out. The restaurants will be crowded and the food is better at home.

I don’t mind if I do all the cooking.

I don’t care about getting cards.

I don’t want gifts. I have everything I need. On top of that, I have a husband who lets me buy things I want (albeit he knows I’m very tight with money).

I wish I could spend the day with Mom and Mimi. I will enjoy whatever tomorrow brings with my children, knowing that someday they will not live with me and may not be close enough to come home for the day. Just like I no longer live close enough to always spend Mother’s Day with my mother. . .

Spoonful of Sugar

This year I’ve read two different homemaking books. So far. . .I might have a weak spot for books on tidying and organizing. These two books were definitely different and yet they also have some ideas in common. One idea in particular:

It’s easier to put things away (and find them again) if you have fewer things.

I know. Not exactly earth shattering! But I’ve never seen a messy home (room, closet, office, garage, you name it) that wasn’t suffering from a case of Too Much Stuff. So it’s an idea that bears repeating.

It’s easier to put things away (and find them again) if you have fewer things.

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

Anyhow, the first homemaking book I read this year was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. If you read the reviews, you will find some who indeed find it life-changing and others who find the magic to be silly. It is, to be fair, a little silly at times, although I wonder if that is cultural (Kondo is Japanese). Often picked on is the advice to take a moment to thank an item for its service before discarding it. Guess what? It turns out that it is easier to part with an object if you acknowledge that it has served its purpose in your life but is now worn out (favorite shoes) or no longer necessary (baby gear). You don’t have to literally talk to your shoes to accomplish this, of course. I wish I had read this book before packing to move here! I packed, moved, and unpacked an awful lot of things that don’t pass the test of sparking joy. I have started going through some categories of items (she suggests an order of attack) but plan to really put it to work this summer.

The bulk of the book deals with getting ready of excess clutter in your home; at times it is a bit repetitive but not excessively so. There is less said about organizing the things you keep, and much of what is written is with a smaller home and family in mind than mine. I have started using her method for folding my clothes and while it is too fiddly for some people, I don’t mind because it is easier both to fit things in a drawer and to see what I have.

The next book I read on this subject was Organizing Solutions for People With Attention Deficit Disorder by Susan Pinsky. No, I don’t have an attention deficit order. . .but I live with people who do. This book also instructs the reader to begin with a massive decluttering. Here the decision is more pragmatic: have you used it in the past year? do you have more than you reasonably need? can a multi-functional item do its job?

The main difference between the two books, though, is in how to organize the possessions you deem worthy of keeping. While Kondo is concerned with peaceful aesthetics, Pinsky’s focus is on ease of putting things away. Pinsky favors open storage when possible–no doors or drawers to open, just fling the item in the right direction and it’s put away. For socks, she suggests choosing only one or two styles so you can easily grab a pair from the loose socks in the drawer. She also recommends not nesting items (especially in the kitchen) and only stacking them when absolutely necessary.

I like both books. I really like Kondo’s book because visual clutter is a stress factor for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s organized: if I can see it, I think about it. This can be useful and I use it to remind myself of something I need to do, but most of the clutter in my house is not necessarily mine and yet I can’t ignore it. However, I can see how some of Pinsky’s organization ideas would enable the boys to keep their things a little more under control. One month left in the homeschool year, and then I’m rolling up my sleeves and tackling the clutter monster!

Family history

It’s been awhile since I posted a picture of my desk, but it’s been in front of a plain beige wall since we moved. Yawn. Once I unpacked pictures, I knew I probably wanted to put my family dairy farm related pictures above my desk, perhaps incorporating my milk bottle collection. It took me awhile to form any sort of concrete idea, until I remembered there’s an aerial photo of the farm and then things fell into place. Sort of.

I ordered my photos and headed to Hobby Lobby for a frame. I already had three small barn wood frames, bought at Hobby Lobby many many years ago. I looked at the larger barn wood frames but ended up with a dark red frame. It’s slightly distressed–not really my cup of tea, but it works. I brought it home, got my picture inside, and realized the frame has no hanger. What?! I ended up asking Larry to make a ledge, which I painted the same shade of green as my sewing table.

My "farm" wall

My “farm” wall

I measured wrong. I thought I would be able to fit my half gallon bottle on the shelf. I put that back in the cupboard, got out my cast iron milk wagon, and rearranged my pints and half pints. It works, more or less, although the arrangement of the three smaller frames is off. And that square frame will not hang straight for anything!

For the curious, from left to right: Grandpa driving his milk wagon; aerial of the farm; Nana reading to me; Dad with toy milk bottles.

Stairs go up (and up and up)

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I can’t remember when I last took or posted a “stairsteps” picture, but after sharing a 2010 photo on Facebook last month it was agreed that it was time for an update.

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Have you ever tried to photograph six monkeys kids at the same time?

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They are as silly and (un)cooperative now as they were then. ;)

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Jury Duty

This week I received my fourth summons but I have yet to appear for jury duty. My first summons was in Indiana, after I had gotten married and moved to Illinois. I wasn’t summoned again until our first year in Wyoming and I asked for a deferment because I was still nursing Daniel. They didn’t call me again until last year. . .yes, a Wyoming summons after we had moved to Minnesota. I sent the form back with a note that I had moved, but this week another summons was forwarded to me from Wyoming. I hope this time they actually make note of the fact that I have moved and changed my voter registration!

I admit I have mixed feelings about jury duty. I vote because it is my civic duty; if at some point I am summoned in a state where I actually reside, I will serve because that too is my civic duty. But voting only takes minutes out of my day; jury duty can require much more time. Even though my nursing days are long past, I’m still responsible for the care and education of six children. I don’t have access to a babysitter or a substitute teacher (or cook or maid or. . .). Sure, as a pastor Larry’s schedule is flexible and he sometimes works at home, but he still has his own full time job that includes being on call 24/7. And sure, we have teenagers who can do some of my chores if I am gone, but they still need some supervision as well as having their own schoolwork to do. All in all, my unpaid “job” doesn’t lend itself to time away.

I wonder if knitting is allowed in the courtroom. . .

Freshening up

In 2003, we used our Christmas money to buy a pair of pink swivel rockers. They’re technically mauve but this is a boy house: calling them pink chairs is close enough. We sit in them a lot; I was surprised at how hard it was to find a picture! Maybe I usually sit in a pink chair to take pictures? Who knows!

Fast forward to Christmas 2014 and spending our gift money on a second hand leather love seat and an upholstered IKEA bench that serves us as ottoman/coffee table. I’m tired of the pink. It doesn’t coordinate with the new stuff. The pink chairs are worn and dingy but otherwise in good shape, so I started researching how to sew slip covers. There’s not a lot out there, and much of what is out there is written by people with limited experience. This series of blog posts offered the most help I found.

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Rachel reading in a pink chair, 2008.

 

I began with a couple of worn out bed sheets, pinning them to one section of chair at a time, tracing an outline in Sharpie, and then cutting it out with an approximate 1″ seam allowance to allow for adjustments. I then basted together a bed sheet slip cover, ripping and resewing, grumbling under my breath, and returning to the internet in hope of more advice. Finally I had a mostly workable pattern, so I traced my seams with a different color of Sharpie and pulled out all the basting thread. I then cut the pieces on the stitching line, folding in half to ensure symmetry in pieces that needed to be symmetrical. I retraced all the patterns onto Swedish tracing paper and added a 3/4″ seam allowance (1/2″ or 5/8″ would have been enough but I was nervous).

The easy part was cutting out the fabric (cotton from IKEA, cheap and washable). The tedious part was sewing yards and yards of piping. The face palm part was realizing that I needed to add Velcro to the back seams if I wanted to actually get the covers on the chairs! Zippers would work, but I’m still trying to use up the bulk Velcro I bought for who knows what. The hard part was getting the arms to fit properly, and in fact after adjusting the first cover I altered the pattern and the second one went together better. Not perfect, but better. The painful part was stitching my finger tip, through mostly dead skin that didn’t bleed but oh did it sting.

Done! Not perfect, but done, and much more cheerful than dingy pink. I mean mauve. ;)

Joshua playing on his iPad in a red chair-that-used-to-be-pink, 2015.

Joshua playing on his iPad in a red chair-that-used-to-be-pink, 2015.

One last note: before putting the covers on, I padded the chairs with batting to fill in where the chair was contoured but my cover was not. This is mostly visible when looking at an unoccupied chair; I am hoping with wear it will blend into the rest of the chair.

Ambition

This week’s to do list. . .

‘Tis the season to feel ambitious about the coming school year. As usual, Agnus Dei Academy will commence after Labor Day; unfortunately, due to our move and accompanying chaos we’ve only just finished last school year (and the older kids still have some work to finish). Such is life! Hopefully this year will be better, but then again every year I hope this year will be better than the last. :)

Last week I had the opportunity to sit and visit with Glenda; she was kind enough to fill me in on Minnesota homeschool laws and then we discussed subjects and curriculum. She is much more organized than I am, so this mostly ended up being me looking over her shoulder as our kids are similar ages and we are both teaching the same period of history this year. This weekend I started pulling all of our books that I might want to use this year: mostly Medieval history though I did see things for other subjects as well, such as my beloved IEW curriculum that has been neglected long enough that I need to refresh my memory so that we can use it again. ;) I even found a couple books for the “for sale” pile, in particular Daniel has finished Math U See‘s Alpha curriculum, so we no longer need that teacher manual and DVD.